Photo Feedback

2017 Creative Flair Category Winner: Jean Wilson, 2017 Better Photography Photo of the Year Award

I have yet to get four gold awards at the Australian Professional Photography Awards. Every year, I pack away four gold prints and hope the judges agree with me.

They never have!

No matter how experienced you might be or how many awards you’ve won in the past, entering photography competitions remains an important part of our development as photographers.

My co-judges, David Oliver and Tony Hewitt, are also AIPP Grand Masters of Photography. They also enter APPA every year (well, except for this year because of Covid-19, but we did have the Silver Lining Awards instead). And we have a little wager on the side with the lowest scoring photographer buying lunch for the other two.

As judges, we think it’s important to know what it feels like to win and to lose. We all know what it’s like to get an entry with no award. We also remember what it was like to get our first bronze and silver awards. And the excitement doesn’t change with experience.

We’re realistic that winning a category or the overall competition is a matter of luck because we have no control over how good other entries might be. However, we can judge our success by how many silver or gold awards we get. At our level, we expect to get silvers (unless we’re testing something different, which is shorthand for saying we didn’t even get a silver)!

But what about you? How did you go last year and can you do better this year? If you get bronze awards easily enough, then perhaps your challenge is to get four silvers? Getting lots of silvers? Then welcome to the club in trying to get lots of golds. And if you do find the secret, please remember to share it with me!

Entries into the 2020 Better Photography Photo of the Year Awards close on 22 August 2020, so there's still time to enter!For more details, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com now!

2017 Emotive Portrait Category Winner: Andi abdul Halil, 2017 Better Photography Photo of the Year Award. Was this a composite image? Does it really matter if you like it?

In another competition I’m involved with, we were accused of giving priority to composite images over ‘real’ subjects. When I sat down and did a count of the winning images, 70 percent were single capture photographs of real subjects with ‘appropriate’ use of post-production.

Composites don’t necessarily beat straight shots.

However, there are two reasons you enter a photography competition. One is to test yourself against a standard, determined by the judges, and you succeed based on the bronze, silver and gold awards. There is no limit to how many of these awards are handed out – it’s based on how good your entries are.

The second reason is to win a prize and that’s hard. You can control how good your own entry looks, but you have no control over how good the competition is. A ‘straight’ photo may struggle to beat a clever ‘composite’, but similarly a composite can look overworked and fabricated in comparison to a beautiful ‘straight’ shot.

My view is that judges today are much more sophisticated and have a good understanding of the techniques and approaches they see in the competition. A strong straight shot, appropriately finessed in post-production, has every chance of winning a high award and first prize as well.

If you’re in doubt, take a look at the overall winner from the last three year’s Better Photography Photo of the Year competition – a straight nature shot of a humming bird in 2017, a travel shot in 2018 and a beautiful portrait in 2019.

Composites and tricky computer techniques are not necessary, but some post-production to refine your images is definitely recommended.

Enter our 2020 competition today! Details below.

https://www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com/

Silver Award by Armand Sarlangue, Classic Landscape category, 2018 Better Photography Photo of the Year Award

I hear photographers saying that unless they use Photoshop or Lightroom, they could never win a photography competition. And I agree – but I think we are talking about two completely different things.

Generally, when photographers complain about Photoshop, they’re talking about highly constructed composites or special filter effects. In the past when these techniques were used, they did impress the judges and won a lot of awards, but these days, overworked photographs can actually score less, not more.

When I talk about using Photoshop – or Lightroom or Capture One – I’m suggesting that every entry can be improved with a little post-production. You might just lighten or darken the image, or darken down a corner – the point I’m suggesting is that successful photographers do not rely on their cameras to deliver the final result. EVERY image can be improved or strengthened with a little post-production – just as we used to do in the darkroom when shooting with film.

The mark of a competent photographer is the appropriate use of post-production.

Entries into the 2020 Better Photography Photo of the Year Awards close on 22 August 2020, so there's still time to enter - and who knows, you could be part of the $5,000 cash prize pool too! For more details, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com now!

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